Tapis (Indonesian weaving style)

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A black and red tapis

Tapis (Indonesian: kain tapis) is a traditional weaving style from Lampung, Indonesia. The word tapis also refers to the resulting cloth. It consists of a striped, naturally-coloured cloth embroidered with warped and couched gold thread. Traditionally using floral motifs, it has numeorus variations. It is generally worn ceremonially, although it can be used as a decoration. It is considered one of the symbols of Lampung.


Tapis is generally made by Lampungese women. It consists of a woven, naturally coloured fabric with warped gold and silk embroidery.[1][2] The gold thread, shaped in stripes, chevrons, and checks, contrasts the colours of the fabric.[1][2] Tapis can also be decorated with beads, mica chips, or old colonial coins.[1][3][4]

A Lampungese woman (right) wearing a tapis sarong, with old coins hanging from the bottom

The gold embroidery is affixed using couching techniques, minimalizing waste.[5] The gold thread is attached in sections, then couched with a different, less expensive, thread at turns. This ensures that none of the gold thread is used in a non-visible area.[5][6]

Traditionally, tapis has floral motifs. However, modern tapis may also be based on the weaver's own design and include non-floral motifs, such as Arabic calligraphy.[4] Other designs may include snakes, ships, and mythical creatures.[2] Some tapis, called tapis tua (old tapis), are covered entirely in golden embroidery.[7]

Although generally produced by Lampungese home industries, tapis is also produced in other areas, including Kendal, Central Java[1] and Pisang Island.[8]


Traditionally, tapis is worn as a sarong for weddings, Eid ul-Fitr celebrations, and welcoming ceremonies. However, tapis can also be used as a wall decoration.[4] When worn, it forms a cylinder around the wearer's legs.[9]


Tapis being sold

Tapis has come to be seen as a symbol of Lampung.[1]

Stevie Emilia of the Jakarta Post describes tapis as having "exceptional beauty and sophistication",[10] while Jill Forshee describes viewing tapis as "like seeing countless possibilities in art and life portrayed in cloth".[6]

The price of tapis reflects its age. Generally, the older a tapis the more it costs. Antique tapis are also collectors items, collected by both Indonesians and foreigners.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Oyos Saroso (22 January 2007). "Rusiana Makki, empowering women through 'tapis'". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 6 August 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c Maxwell 2003, pp. 112–113
  3. ^ Rodgers, Summerfield & Summerfield 2007, p. 36
  4. ^ a b c Nia S. Kim (10 June 2001). "Lampung offers a whole lot more besides jungle adventures". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 6 August 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Maxwell 2003, p. 316
  6. ^ a b Forshee 2006, p. 144
  7. ^ (Maxwell 2003, p. 184)
  8. ^ Backshall 2003, p. 502
  9. ^ Maxwell 2003, p. 319
  10. ^ Stevie Emilia (10 April 2011). "Journeying through textile traditions". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 6 August 2011.